Starting from
$474

Rainforest Conservation & Research: Borders of Taman Negara, Malaysia

Highlights

  • In free time visit caves or have a swim at the waterfall
  • Enjoy an overnight camping trip with the group
  • Help identify animal tracks and locate potential spots of animal snares
  • Reduce the chances of animals getting trapped
Location
Malaysia
Length
1 to 4 weeks
Housing
  • Hostel

About

Malaysia is blessed with a high biodiversity of wildlife. Unfortunately many of its most emblematic animals are under severe threat.

You will help protect Malaysia’s most amazing animals by going on jungle patrols on the borders of Malaysia's largest national park, Taman Negara. The borders are where poaching numbers are highest due to the small strip of forest left connecting the wild animals living in Taman Negara to the rest of the wild animals living in Malaysia.

This project is suitable for volunteers of 16 year and above and families with children able to hike for 5 hours or more. VOLUNTEER WORK: Conduct daily jungle walks, Visit the local village to share information gained from the jungle walks. SCHEDULE: The volunteering activities run from morning until evening with a lunch break in between. For volunteers staying longer than one week, Sundays are usually free days. START DATES: Every Monday! Arrivals are Monday, Departures are on Sundays.
Price Details
1 week - $474.33
2 weeks - $830.07
3 weeks - $1304.40
4 weeks - $1660.14

INCLUDED: 3 Meals per day, Dormitory accommodation, English speaking guide & Malay speaking guide, Half day limestone caving per week, 1 Malay dinner at local family per week, Overnight Camping trip.

NOT INCLUDED: Travel, Insurance

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    85%
  • Support
    96%
  • Fun
    90%
  • Value
    89%
  • Safety
    89%

Program Reviews (19)

Ian

Jun 18-Jul 9 2017

8/10

Loved:
1. treks
2. Batek,
3. Spotting animals & pug marks (saw tiger marks on 2 different treks)
4. bushcraft (blowdarts, lean-tos, bamboo cooking)
5. teaching English (3 X Batek & 1X Meraph village)
6.night markets
7. caving (one with waterfalls & climbing inside the best)
8. night drives (4 leopard cats, 2 x palm civets, 1 owl)
9. river swims
10. getting to know people on the project, local Malay, & Batek
11. Malay dinners

Suggestions for future volunteers:
1. use the local Cap Gajah rubber shoes for treks (best for muddy tracks, river crossing & easy access to remove leeches) 2. pack less (1 pair shorts, 1 short sleeve shirt, 3 pair underwear, 3 pair socks, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 pair light but tough pants, swimwear, hat, sandals, sunglasses, strong bug repellent, 2 X 750 ml water bottles)
3. buy a SIM card with data for your smart phone,
4. Learn all you can when you're hear by reading (culture & lang of Malay & Batek, local wildlife, Malaysian history), asking questions, and talking to everyone you can.

I do hope to return one day, maybe not to Meraph, but definitely to another Ecoteer Malaysia project. You are doing important work and I have enjoyed my stay here in Merapoh and the time in 2012 in Perhentian at the Cmmty Proj there. Keep up the good work!

How can this program be improved?

1. Sort out the trash & recycling (I helped to clear out a massive heap of recyclables during my stay & identified several sources of info in the village about trash pick up -- stores with dumpsters, villagers collecting glass)
2. Keep up the improvement projects on the roof (it has a lot of potential if you get more shade trees & some sort of shelter from wind/rain/sun, possible rain water harvesting)
3. Don't require your interns to regularly drive 12 hrs round-trip to drop folks at other projects (this is not a good use of their time & its a morale killer)
4. Buy some cheap solar chargers to reduce electricity costs & night vision goggles to make night drives more enjoyable
5. Consider doing night treks as these are offered by local adventure companies and will likely be more fruitful than drives
6. Engage more regularly with local Malay villagers. I and several other interns & volunteers were surprised how many villagers did not know anything about Ecoteer or the house. Maybe hold some local info sessions thru the mosque or just do regular walks thru the village talking to folks.
7. Better record keeping & hand-over of admin duties when people leave. I was told several times that I owed 5000RM after I paid GoOverseas & the Ecoteer person took several days just to confirm that I had indeed paid. Also, the Know Before You Go Guide & email contacts for the program were not updated properly. I booked in Aug 2016 and when I tried to reconnect in March/Apr 2017 it took me several weeks to find the right people to talk to about the project.

Jia Yi
Female
21 years old

First time camping out! It was AMAZING

9/10

The most memorable event during my visit is the camping. I was, and still am, a city girl. Before I went to Merapoh I have never tried camping, not to mention camping in a jungle with people I just met. I was there for 2 weeks, so I camped twice. The first time we went to an old campsite, so we didn't do much as the shelter was already there. All those months have passed but I still remember the beautiful scenery there. There was a nice river nearby, the floor wasn't crowded with shrubs and the trees, while tall and plenty, still allowed enough light to get through. It was the first time I got to eat bamboo rice: simple yet delicious. At night we chatted with the four Batek ladies. One of them, I think it's Katjai, I'm not sure, my memory is a bit fuzzy, and I probably spelled her name wrong..anyway, she was the most talkative of them all. It was her who taught me about her people, and I'm ashamed that even though I'm Malaysian, I know next to nothing about the bumiputera and their culture. She told us all kind of incredible stories that still make me smile.
The second time was not as great as the first, because the friends I made during the first week had left, also I caught a flu. But it was still nice because we learnt how to make the shelter..sort of, as the ladies did almost all the work while I just folded the leaves.
Oh! And caving! It was perfect! Like a little adventure. We went to 3 caves during the first week and I absolutely love it, especially the last one. The guides, after taking us through a labyrinth, threw up their hands and declared they didn't know how to get out! Only after they were satisfied that they took us out. They were so funny that no one could get mad at their prank.
The hostel was nice. The food was quite good, though not as good as my mom's cooking--no one cooks as good as my mum. The people there were warm and helpful, and patient--oh dear, I still remember that awkward moment when Helen handed me a cabbage while I was like, "Huh?? Cut? Into pieces? How???"
First-timer, if you are reading this, get a larger backpack (not a daypack) please. We were supposed to divide the stuff we needed for camping among us, but I brought a small one, so others had to take up more *guilty*

How can this program be improved?

It was really really fun, and I enjoyed it very much. But I feel like I didn't do much for the conservation, it was like a normal visit during a holiday instead of volunteering for something good.

Alex
Male
31 years old
London

Taman Negara Tiger Trail, Merapoh

10/10

Genuinely one of the best experiences of my entire life. Totally out of the comfort zone, but so worth it. The Fuze Ecoteer guys were awesome and made us feel totally welcome and at home; trekking through the jungle and camping was tough but so interesting; the activities were great fun, particularly climbing through the limestone caves; and helping teach the Batek kids English was amazing - wonderful to see they've now got a separate project for them.

All in all, I have amazing memories of Merapoh. Can't speak highly enough of the programme, and for such an amazing cause.

How can this program be improved?

Simply more funding. Amazing work, but obviously could do more with better funding. So get involved!

Benedetta
Female
32 years old
Rome

Merapoh, The Heart of the Jungle

10/10

You tell me: Merapoh and I will answer: it's a word that means everything to me.
I was thinking: what can make us what we are, what builds our character and our consciousness? Certainly the memories. And I have so many happy memoirs of Merapoh.

WHY HAVE I CHOSEN MERAPOH?
I wanted to see the oldest forest of the world. I wanted to live it, not to visit it as a tourist. I wanted to avoid the tour operator, and wanted to meet who lives immersed in Nature.
I have always sought a deeper contact with nature. To create this contact I needed to visit the "oldest" Nature, remained intact over the years, undergoing only its transformation.
A Merapoh there is still this kind of Nature.

WHY HAVE I CHOSEN ECOTEER?
Ecoteer works into the Forest for long time, knows the issues and monitors and safeguards its habitat. Moreover Ecoteer group plays an important role in educating the village nearby, teaching to the children and teenagers. I wanted to know the tribe, open my mind to new realities and overcome my thought patterns.

WHAT I FOUND IN MERAPOH?
I was lucky because the staff who welcomed me was wonderful. All beautiful people, which is not easy to find, and very committed to the project. This gave me a lot of courage, love of life, positivity, strength and generosity above all, one of the most important quality of all.
I went hiking in the forest and slept under a self-made shelter, made of bamboo and leaves.
I tok part in the lessons in the village huts, played with the children in the mud and in the rain, ate at the local market (here they sell also snacks made with insects) slept on the roof, under a starry sky.
When I looked at the stars, in the big sky of Malaysia, with the forest nearby, in that warm temperature, I was happy.
I realize that there is no more important thing than to live such moments.
You bring home a part of beauty, the immense beauty of this misterious world.

How can this program be improved?

I don't have suggestions because I lived a short time in Merapoh.
It will be nice to create some workshop where batik teach their knowledge to the interns or vice versa (if someone have some skill with craft).

Louise
Female
23 years old
London

Review of week in Merapoh- Louise Cox

10/10

I spent a week in Merapoh and cannot explain how much I enjoyed it. This was thr first week of a five months of travelling. Despite a small mix up with my arrival date the team where there to welcome me. I was a bit nervous as this was my first solo trip but the team made me feel at home immediately- playing bananagrams and eating toast. I loved the fact this project was off the tourist route, it gave me a real insight into how people led their everyday lives in Mayalsia. All the local people I met in Merapoh itself were warm and friendly and genuinely wanted you to enjoy their hospitality.
I adored the relax vibe of the team house as well as how eco-friendly the house was. It really impressed me the lengths the team went to reduce, reuse, recycle.
The conservation work was smashing. This is where my passion is and it was so interesting to have a Batek guide as well as members of the team to explain the conservation work they are trying to do in the area. At first I was apprehensive about working with the children in the Batek school. Working with children had never been something I was interested in. The team are so loved my the kids in the village which immediately put me at ease. The team work so hard a lesson preparation, especially when Malay isn't even some of their first languages! even if it doesn't go to plan the classes are still relaxed and fun. It is on the terms of the village people which I really liked to see.
I loved the food as well, lunches from the local shop, the night markets, the food we cooked ourselves all delicious, my mouth is watering just thinking about the Rotti. Not even the leaches could dampen my spirits when we camped out in the forest or when we where hip deep in muddy water in the caves. All these experiences I will cherish dearly.
Overall it was a top class week. Relaxed but very interesting and thought provoking. This trip has 100% inspired me to do more volunteering and I couldn't recommend it enough to anyone who is ready to get stuck in.

How can this program be improved?

Nothing!

Tino
Male
29 years old
Munich
Other

Go for it!

10/10

I can only recommend this programme. It's been a while since I've been to Merapoh (Feb 16) but I am still thinking about this experience regularly. If you are a volunteer for the tiger conservation, you will be trekking through the jungle looking for pug marks and snares. As you can see from the other reviews, you will also be visiting the Batek (who are lovely) and will even spend a night with them in the jungle.
But for me the trekking was the best experience as you can enjoy one of the oldest forests in the world and meanwhile do something meaningful.

Also the team was so helpful all the time and we had lots and lots of fun together.
If you'd ask me if I wanted to do it again, I would just pack my things and go for it again!

PS: I was there only for a week. If you can, you should stay longer.

Mathilde
Female
26 years old
Haarlem, Netherlands

The best part of my 2016

10/10

This is a place where all sorts of travelers can gain new experiences, even the most experience traveler can gain personally from volunteering with ecoteer here in Merapoh! The small scale of this project means that every hand extra is truly useful, and allows you to fully immerse with the Batek and the Ecoteer team. The price is super reasonable as you get to see where the money goes, and it is aimed at only small groups of volunteers. It is true that short term volunteering means it can feel like you leave less of an impact, but even only adding numbers of visitors to this region helps the locals as well as reducing poacher numbers. The camping in the jungle is an amazing experience, where the Batek have so much knowledge we can learn from. And the Ecoteer team is absolutely amazing, people with the heart at the right spot and that know how to have fun!

Lotte
Female
26 years old
Virum

My awesome week in Malaysia

9/10

First of all, I hope you will excuse me for my bad english. It is not my native language. We got a lot of memories from the trip, but the two most amazing things was the camping in the jungle and the caves. To have a night in the jungle and listen to all the sounds are wonderful. And to eat food, which was prepared in bambu, with leaves as the plate. And I will never forget the feeling when crawling under A big rock in the caves.

How can this program be improved?

If you as a voulenteer also see some of the work the girls do when not in the jungle.
Because eventhougth it was an awesome week, it was a bit like a trip with five private guides, it did not feel like we did any different, it was only our money which did any different.

Bernard
Male
29 years old
Kuala Lumpur

Eco Leadership Programme Integration into Tiger Walk

10/10

We had a tiger walk during Eco Leadership Programme from 29 October to 1 November 2015. We set up mock camera trap, identify animals mark, learning about animals behaviour like sun bear, elephant etc.

Really happy to connect with mother nature and also doing great things in tiger walk, to increase awareness about the poaching activities near to the borderline of Taman Negara - Sg Yu Tiger Corridor.

Thank you Ecoteer and MyCat for the great effort.

How can this program be improved?

Remain as it is, good things will flow in.

Teresa
Female
39 years old
london

Go on an adventure of a lifetime

10/10

I went into the Tiger Conservation work with no experience and not even being a massive nature girl.

I knew I wanted to do some voluntary work and experience a different, more personal side of asia, away from the package tours, sitting on a tour bus, following a yellow/red umbrella.

What I experienced at Merapoh, exceeded all my expectations!
We went jungle trekking to set up cameras traps and to look for pugmarks. My personal favourite was Sun bear prints on tree barks, love the way they slide down them! Other days we went caving, slept under the stars in the jungle, had amazing home cooked traditional Malay dinner at a family’s home, and taught English to the Batek tribe.

My week in Merapoh went by so quickly, but it was filled with so many memorable, magical moments. I honestly loved it and would recommend it to anyone.

The Merapoh team/ family were all lovely, supportive and knowledgeable. I truly hope that our paths will cross again. I thank them all for such an epic adventure!

How can this program be improved?

I guess the living accommodation could be improved. Its all clean, but basic.

Katy
Female
31 years old
United Kingdom
Lincoln University

merapoh tiger trail

9/10

I spent 2 weeks in merapoh and they were jam packed. I experienced hands on conservation, tracking foot prints and putting up camera traps and reviewing the photos. Also working closely with the batek tribe made the experience even better. The kids were amazing and eager to learn and the elders have lots of forest knowledge to pass on. All of the staff from ecoteer made me feel right at home and answered all my questions and adapted the time table to fit in caving, trekking and attending eco film festival and promoting their plastic brick press to help combat the world's plastic problem. The team were great and I would definitely recommend this site.

How can this program be improved?

The program was pretty new when I volunteered. The one thing inbound change would be more conservation such as talks from mycat etc. Otherwise it was great.

Harry
Male
21 years old
Glasgow, Scotland
University of Leeds

Absolutely incredible experience!! A must do!!!

10/10

I was travelling for 7 months and participated in quite a few volunteering programmes, none however quite match the potential and impact of this this one!

The week i spent with the team in Merapoh was awesome. They were all great to work along side and as it was their first week in this new location it was great to see things getting started. It showed me how much potential, and how much good the work they are doing there has and will continue to have on the local Batik community and wildlife in the area.

The area itself is absolutely breathtaking! Coupled with the hugely diverse list of activities we did during the week and you have yourself a life changing experience.

Whether we were hiking through the rain forest and camping out under the stars or climbing our way through caves and battling over waterfalls, there really was no end to the beauty and diversity the area has to offer.

Our time spend with the local community was very particularly special. Watching this bond develop between the local Batik community and the team there was very encouraging. It great to see how much of a difference these sessions had on the kids. However, it was not only the kids that benefited from the sessions with the teams. As many of the adults there had very little or no interaction with outsiders before it was nice to see them getting involved with the activities. We played a game of football with them, and its safe to say that we didn't stand a chance against some of these wannabe professional players. I would have loved to stay longer to have seen these relationships develop.

On our last night we had a picnic ontop of a peak overlooking the whole area. Safe to say that the view could bring a tear anyones eye.

And the food was to die for! We had a home cooked meal prepared for us by some local Malay women and ate with their family which was an experience in itself.

I could literally talk for hours and write paragraph after paragraph about the Tiger Conservation and Trekking Programme but if you don't go and experience it for yourself then you really are missing out.
Go and give it a go! I promise you will not regret it!

I want to send a huge thanks to the team out there! You really made my week (which was way to short) the most incredible week of my whole 7 months travelling. Thank you. :)

Dennis
Male
51 years old
Kuala lumpur malaysia
Other

Great experience

7/10

We had a great time trekking through the jungle (I was part of the Elephant crew:)

Learnt a lot as well as re-connecting with nature

And nature (well, the leeches) re-connected with me too - but as I'm a believer in the health benefits of "bleeding", i just let them do their thing and get their fill

They drop off after a while ...

How can this program be improved?

More camp preparation activities including making things like jungle latrines, waste management systems, clothes drying huts (it rained a lot:) and even ramps down to the river

Makes camp more comfortable and people more involved

Kate
Female
24 years old
United Kingdom
Other

Sri Is so enthusiastic you can't help get caught up in it with him

10/10

I've enjoyed every second of the last week and all the people I have met and been with, it has been like being part of a family. As well as enjoying it, I feel like I have learnt so much about the forest, the local community and Malaysia in general.

Sri is so enthusiastic about what he is dong you can't help but get caught up in it with him. The fact that you feel like you can see where your money has gone and that Ecoteer cares about having a positive impact on the local community and everyone who is involved in the project is another really important part for me. I fell like I have got so much out of doing this and would not hesitate for a second to recommend it to others.

How can this program be improved?

Really enjoyed doing the lesson plan & the lesson also was fun to do but I guess it doesn’t seem like you are going to make much of a difference with just a few hours.

Kwa
Male
42 years old
Singapore
Other

A lifetime experience of eco-volunteering

9/10

I started the programme at the Yellow house in KL.This is a quaint volunteer hub with a rustic charm,it provides with the basic creature comfort with a token cost.I was greeted by Daniel,who will be leading the programme.I get to meet fellow volunteers from Europe,Australia and US,off to another volunteer programme in Ipoh.Glad were we to be hosted by the hospitable neighbour who hosted an authentic Indian dinner,wonderful curry,thosai,rice etc.
  Next day we took a bus and public transport to meet our guide Mr. Ashley,and he brought along his daughter Eleanor.Together we head off to Merapoh for the programme proper.
  The guest house in Merapoh have nice comfy bed,kitchen and outdoor shower rooms.Next two days we went for a recce at the fringe of Taman Negara National Park,charting new future patrol route. We have many interesting sighting along the way : animal tracks,droppings ,creepy crawlies etc.We also done some camera trapping work,and I was elated to see the pictures of the many megafauna denizens in the park:tigers,sun bears,panthers,elephants,tapirs,dholes,wild boars,porcupines etc.Seeing them on picture is all that worth my while,as it is extremely difficult to see the animals in the park due to their shy and elusive nature.But we do see red Muntjac on the trail,albeit only a fleeting second.
   Daniel and I spent one night in one observation hide,staking out a salt lick.No animals were spotted,but the experience was wonderful.There are fireflies in the forest,and the cacophonies of the night illustrates the vibrancy and diversity of life in the rain forest.
  Another day was spent camping in the elephant cave,known as Gua Gajah.Evidence of elephant presence was everywhere.It is truly a unique first time experience for me,camping out in a limestone cave.It was breezy and cooling,we set up a bonfire,and were quickly lulled to sleep in the unique ambiance.
  I have a half day adventure in one of the limestone cave,gua Hari Malaysia.The guides from SGI outdoor are experience and helpful people,and we had a good time exploring up to 400 m into the cave.At certain stretch,we have to swim across pools with the ceiling a few centimeter from our head,while we have to rappel up mini falls twice during the exploration.Bats were abound in the cave,and I saw whip scorpion and some spiders in the cave too!
  I have spent day with the indigenous people of Malaysia,the orang asli.They are the original denizens in the Taman Negara forest,and have learned all the necessary survival skills to live in the rain forest.I was amazed at the speed they travel through the forest at ease,traversing the water-logged and muddy ground.The ladies are good fishers too,being capable of reeling in good catches in no time,using nothing more than a bamboo rod and earthworm bait.
  This is definitely a lifetime experience for me.Trekking in Malaysian forest may not be new to me,but to experience the life in the forest doing my part in forest conservation is something I have always wanted to do. Never mind about the rain,who put off some of the planned activities,and leeches,boggy ground,bugs and creepy crawlies,they are an essential component of nature ,like you and I.Go with an open mind,and you will reap in an experience of a lifetime.Thanks to Ecoteer and MYCAT for the great experience.
  

Harriet
Female
24 years old
United Kingdom
Bournemouth University

Tiger Trail Experience

9/10

I spent a week in July 2013 on the tiger trail volunteer experience, and let's just say it wasn't one to forget.

To start off with, I'd never done anything like this before and didn't really know what I'd got myself in to. I'm 19 so was one of the youngest in the group.
My friend and I spent our first few nights in KL, and then met the rest of the group at a bus station to head off on our journey to Merapoh. This took about 5/6 hours, the busses were comfy so it wasn't so bad.

We arrived in Merapoh with all our bags and got picked up by the owners of the chalet. They took us back and we were given a quick tour. It was extremely basic, which at first I thought I was going to absolutely hate. As soon as I got over this, it turned out to be absolutely fine and just what we needed. I was made to feel at home, everyone was so nice and the accommodation did exactly what it needed too.
The rooms were single sex, we had 2 girls rooms and one for boys. There were 2 bunk beds in each, again very basic. This is all that was needed, we were living out our backpacks and by the end of all that trekking it was like heaven getting in to bed!
There was a lounge and kitchen area as well where we all could sit in after the treks and chill out for a few hours. We all felt very safe staying there and by the end of the week we didn't want to leave!

We had some lunch and a run through of the week, it was all quite overwhelming at the start because it sounded like a lot to cram in.

We had about 7 volunteers altogether, at the start it was a bit awkward and everyone was quiet but by the end of the week we were such good friends and we were all just having a laugh together. Helping each other out and working together on the treks created a bond almost straight away and I met some of the most amazing people.

Let's move on to the actual trekking itself.
We started in the mornings at about 8, and drove to different corridors of the Taman Negara. The treks would include going down poacher trails and looking for any animal evidence (prints etc.). This lasted about 7 hours for 4 of the days of the week, and is definitely not for anyone with a poor fitness level. We had regular breaks and stopped off for lunch. If anyone was finding it difficult the team were there to support them and the MyCat guides were excellent in making sure everyone was alright. I didn't know what to expect and the first trek really brought home to me what the week was going to be like. The terrain was tough and it included things such as walking over logs that had fallen between two banks over a river.
Just a word of warning: Proper walking shoes and at least 2 pairs of trousers are required! I only bought one pair of trousers which were wrecked in the first day, I then had to go out and buy another pair! Another member of the group also bought trainers to wear, and after a few hours the soles had completely fallen off. A good backpack would also be handy. Be prepared for clothes to be ruined! Also, getting leeched is inevitable. It doesn't hurt, and although pretty gross you have to just flick them off or leave them.

Don't let the long days or tough terrain put you off though, the experience wasn't one to be missed and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was completely different to anything I'd done before and didn't really know what to expect, but it was so much fun.

We spent one night sleeping in the jungle, which was an experience I will never forget. Some of the members of the Batek tribe came and cooked us chicken and rice in bamboo, which was absolutely incredible. We arrived at camp and they had already made themselves a shelter out of leaves and sticks. I felt like I was cheating putting up our tents and hammocks! The nights sleep wasn't one of the best but staying right near a river surrounded by wildlife was an incredible experience and will never be forgotten.

Another day was spent caving. This really helped to break up the week of trekking as it wasn't so physically demanding. It was run by the owners of the chalet. We arrived at the site of the cave and were immediately thrown in to the deep end as we had to rock climb up a verge with only a rope behind us. This was completely safe and the leaders of the caving helped us to get up. We then started walking through the cave, which was amazing. We saw all sorts of wildlife, including snakes and scorpions. The caving included crossing through a river, about waist height. If you weren't confident in water the guides were happy to put a rope through to help. We were in the caves for about an hour and a half, until we got to the end. It soon dawned on us we were going to have to abseil down a 30m cliff if we wanted to get back. This was scary, however we all managed to do it and all felt as though we'd accomplished something after (if not a little shaky...)!

We spent another day going to visit the local Batek tribe. This included another trek, where we went with the women to collect leaves in order to weave baskets. It was amazing watching them work, they were about 70+ and much fitter than us! We then went back to their village and taught them an English lesson in their school. They knew very basic English, but responded to the lesson very well and it was such a rewarding experience.

The food throughout the week could not be faulted. It was mainly Malay style curries. We were given a packed lunch every day, which was rice with a sauce and meat/fish. It was quite mild but so tasty. In the evenings we would go to a local restaurant and eat something of our choice off the menu. Every night I ate well and their portions were definitely generous! Couldn't say a bad word about it.

Some evenings we spent down at a lake, which was really refreshing and fun. (Note: don't bomb off the log, it hurts.) We also went out for a Chinese and some beers one night to celebrate, which was amazing.

Dan, the owner of Ecoteer and a leader on the treks was so kind and helped us through the whole week. We wouldn't have done it without him. The trek guides were also brilliant and we had good fun with them. Everyone looked out for each other and we formed a sort of family.

Overall, although daunting at the start the whole experience was incredible. I overcame things I didn't think I would be able to do and a massive thank you to everyone that made it happen. I never expected to meet such great people, we got on so well and by the end of the week we all clicked. It was almost a shame it was over in such a short space of time!

Wei
Male
42 years old
Singapore
University of Oxford

On the trail of tigers (and poachers)

9/10

I participated in the Ecoteer/MyCat Tiger Trail volunteer placement programme in July 2013. Here are some quick thoughts on the experience.

First off, it’s important to set expectations right in case you miss the fine print. The bulk of the programme doesn’t actually take place within the Taman Negara nature reserve, which is a protected area, but within an ecologically similar corridor of rainforest bordering the reserve that is critical as an animal migration corridor, and hence suffers from significant poaching activity. (That said, there are opportunities to walk in and visit the reserve e.g. when inspecting camera traps.) Does this matter? It didn’t for me, because the terrain was identical, and ultimately, we do the most good if we are where the poachers are.

This brings me to the fundamental basis of the programme – the hypothesis that many poachers (especially marginal or part-time ones) avoid areas of jungle frequented by other people. Hence, encouraging low impact adventure travel and trekking in these jungle corridors serves to deter poachers, while giving locals an alternative source of livelihood. Is this hypothesis warranted? MyCat expert Ash cites academic research in support, but the programme is still young and hence its impact has not been tested in a quantitative, rigorous way. More systematic empirical analysis (e.g. randomised controlled trials) could be done in Merapoh, so there is enough data to test alternative hypotheses and improve the impact of these anti-poacher treks. The MIT-JPAL methodology may be useful for this purpose.

On to the programme itself: participants take a 4-hour bus ride from KL to Merapoh, a sleepy kampong village where accommodation was provided at a basic but clean and very adequate dorm (two double decker bunk beds per room). The local chaps running the dorm are helpful, warm and friendly, and some speak fluent English. Once we were settled in, most days took the following form: breakfast, then transport to the route we would be patrolling that day for a 5 to 7 hour jungle walk (with short breaks and a lunch stop to consume our packed meals) looking for tell-tale signs of poachers (snares, traps, trails, camps) or animals of interest. We saw various skeletons of large animals such as a sun bear caught and killed by poacher snares. These sites are then recorded on GPS and reported to other NGOs and the Malaysian authorities to facilitate future enforcement action. All snares and traps are disarmed or taken away. Daily routes are designed by MyCat experts based on their operational needs and the fitness level of participants. Upon reaching the end of the route, we were taken back to the dorm to wash our gear and take a nice cool shower, then for dinner at a local kopitiam (café) or restaurant. Food is traditional Malaysian — rice and noodles-based, and can be spicy or not. We had some great meals and for those in the know, the sambal belachan chilli is excellent.

Some days were different — we visited a local limestone cave (Merapoh is apparently full of them, but only some are open to the public) for a good 4 hours of caving and spotting the interesting cave fauna. This ended with an abseil down a rock face to the exit (two safety lines and a soldier’s belay are used so it is very safe). On the final full day, we were taught how to set up, take down, and check the camera traps that MyCat installs to record both animal and poacher activities. We saw photos of elephants, a porcupine, some deer, wild boar and lots of falling leaves, but no tigers (a worrying trend and one that calls for more urgent action).

The highlight of the programme for me was visiting the Batek community in Merapoh. Members of the Orang Asli indigenous people of Malaysia, these Batek were recently resettled into villages by the government and still retain their jungle skills (many were born in the jungle). This was a unique and rare chance to meet, get to know, and go foraging with the Batek villagers, who hunt using blowpipes and poisoned darts, and harvest bamboo, edible plants, flowers and fibrous leaves for weaving mats from the jungle. The Bateks’ legendary skill at flitting through the jungle silently and effectively was evident as we tried to keep up, and we were all pretty tired by the end of it. We then conducted short English lessons for the youths and adults (most know a few words already). They are friendly and mostly keen to learn. On another occasion, we sat on piles of leaves in the jungle in the dead of night, lit with headlamps, learning Batek words and teaching them the English equivalents. It was a surreal yet amazing experience.

So in summary: were we hot, tired and bitten by bugs and leeches? Yes. Were there moments where things didn’t go so well? A few. But organiser and volunteer leader Dan Quilter is an amazing person — full of knowledge, warmth and sincerity, and eager to learn and do more for conservation in Malaysia. He was always cheerful and motivating, funny and in high spirits, and was completely at home with everybody from foreign volunteers to Batek tribespeople. He has several more volunteer programmes including one with sea turtles and I recommend you check those out on his Ecoteer website. All in all, it was well worth it and I would recommend this programme to those seeking an entry-level introduction to tiger conservation activities in Asia. More photos and this review are up on my travel website Sanctuaryseeking.com.

How can this program be improved?

When group sizes are larger, the group moves in a long single file chain through the jungle. In these cases, group and volunteer leaders could be more systematic about ensuring that educational and useful information is conveyed to everybody. Frequently, explanations about sites and wildlife that are given at the front or back of the chain are not passed on to the rest, and hence opportunities to raise education and awareness may be lost.

Alice
Female
24 years old
London

Brilliant experience

9/10

I spent a week on this programme in July of 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

My group was made up of 7 volunteers aged 19-40 something i believe and we were a mix of english, chinese and Singaporean.

Accommodation - we spent 5 nights in single sex dorm rooms in a small, basic chalet. Had access to everything you needed like a a shower, Malay + western style toilets, wifi and a little kitchen and lounge area. The place was clean and I felt really safe. The owners and their friends were always popping in and out and they're all really friendly and welcoming.
One night was spent camping in the rainforest, tents/hammocks are provided. Great little spot, right by a lovely part of the river, great for stargazing.

Food - we went to the local store at the start of the week and Dan, the group leader, bought supplies for breakfast every morning (cereal, bread, spreads) and we had access to drinking and boiling water, tea, coffee etc. lunch was delivered every morning for us to take with us on the treks. It was always rice and chicken or fish with a sauce and it was delicious! Dinner we ate at a local restaurant every evening which served Malay food. No complaints, I liked it all!

Daily Activities - we spent 4 days walking through the rainforest, following poacher trails and looking for animal prints and general signs of animal presence. The treks were long, up to 7 hours, and some of them were quite physically demanding so I'd say you need a relatively good level of fitness to be able to enjoy it. The leaders from mycat were really helpful, paitent and knowledgable throughout all of the walks. Ash and Harrison filled us with information about the tigers, poachers and the rainforest itself.
One day was spent caving which was a great experience. We spent a couple of hours walking through the cave then abseiled down it at the end.
One day was spent in a local village where the batek tribe live. We spent a few hours walking to collect leaves for baskets and other crafts they make then we delivered an English lesson to some of the teenagers.
One day we went into the national park to check the camera traps then went for a nice swim in the river.

Highlights - the highlight for me was the English lesson. The teenagers/ young adults that came to our lesson were really keen to learn from us so it was really fulfilling.

The week was really social, there's time at the chalet in the evenings to all sit as a group and chat or watch tv and the mycat guides and dan from ecoteer are all really sociable and up for a laugh. We even went out one night for a Chinese and some beers as a celebration for one of our volunteers.

I'd never done anything like this before, i didnt really realise what i was going to be putting myself through (long, tiring walks) but i ended up having an unforgettable week. I feel like the work we did was beneficial and ive come away from it with a bunch of new friends and knowledge so I'd definitely recommend it, just be prepared for your clothes to get destroyed and your body to be dinner to leeches!

Cam
Male
42 years old
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tigers in the wild

10/10

In September 2012 I was given the opportunity to assist with the work preserving wildlife, and in particular Malaysian tigers in Taman Negara, Malaysia. From the moment we were first picked up from the train station, until we left we were looked after by the wonderful staff at Ecoteer.

Upon arrival at the accomodation centre, we were greeted with a nice comfy bed in a large gender split dorm room. The next day our group were led into the jungle to look for signs of animals and animal poaching, in particular traps which we took the pleasure of destroying. Many interesting footprints, critters and stunning scenery along the way. Just be sure to watch for the leeches!

A wonderful swim in the local fresh water pool was the perfect cure after a sweaty days' trekking. At night we were able to enjoy a meal and a few cold beverages talking about all the action of the day.

Next morning up bright and early to find some more traps and reset the camera traps used to capture the animals in their major animal "highways", seeing pictures of tigers that have been walking on the same path as you only a few days before was pretty special. We were taken to a viewpoint overlooking the whole area. Very cool. Finally the day was finished cooling off in another fresh water stream. Perfect ending.

It was a great weekend, and I definitely learnt a lot. It is great to see that there is people out there that care about our world and the dwindling numbers of important animals to the ecosystem. Keep up the good work!

How can this program be improved?

Easier to get food when needed.

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Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures is a travel company with a bite!

Our team are all experienced and passionate, with two of our project staff currently studying for their PhD and a third planning to. Our business model utilizes revenue generated from voluntourism to establish self-sustaining

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